I have woken up feeling like death warmed over a few times in my life, mostly
sporting humongous hangers from drinking too
much beer in Boston or too much sake in Japan.
But nothing prepared me for one gray day last November in Taiwan when
I started feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse. The
whole cave of my chest seemed to have been hollowed out and then
refilled with slow-drying cement. My heart was beating either much too
much or much too little, I had no idea. All I could do was walk two
blocks to a local grocery store near my home and ask the friendly
clerk to call a taxi for me.
It took a strenuous effort for me to make it to the store and ask for a
taxi to take me to the local ER, about ten minutes away. A Catholic
Hospital in a Buddhist land. An atheist patient about to walk in
un-assisted to the ER and announce in a soft but urgent appeal -- in
horrendously ungrammatical Chinese no less -- "Help! I think I'm
The taxi driver, chewing betel nut as is the custom here, got me to
the St Martin de Porres Hospital as fast as he could, and thank God
the long-ago Portuguese missionary Martin de Porres (1838-1924) had
once made shore in Taiwan, because the doctors at his hospital saved
Especially Dr Ong.
God bless Taiwan!
Even if there most likely is no God, and no Buddhist or Taoist gods
either, still, I salute them all. Together, with a stent angled up
into my heart via a large artery, they saved my barely beating heart
from early extinction. The dying part will come later, the Grim Repear
told me. For now, she said, I am on vacation.
The ER technicians and nurses and doctors arrived with great dispatch
and behaved with immense courtesy and professionalism. I had the time
to wonder why they needed so people to attend to me, but now that I
view the scene in retrospect I see it as a very gentle and firm
arrangement, taking me from the country of the well across the stark
frontier that marks off the land of the heart attack patient.
Within a few hours, having had to do quite a lot of emergency work on
my heart to get me up to speed and ready for an important operation 3
days later -- if I lived that long! -- the ER physicians and urses at
this sad border post had shown me a few other postcards from the
interior and told me that my immediate next stop would have to be with
A gentle and sensitive young man named Dr Ong who took one look at me
in my ICU bed and said "You will survive." Those three words -- spoken
in a fluent and melifluous English -- re-assured me, and I never
*tip o the hat to the brilliant Christopher Hitchens who said it best!
COMMENT FROM A PRATICING CARDIOLOGIST IN THE USA:
Having dealt with heart attacks for 40 years in my career, I can understand your feelings around the acute stage.
I think you've handled it mentally very well. More than half of the men suffered heart attack developed clinical depression for various length of time, typically beginning after the acute stage and lasts for about one year. You seems to be on the contrary and sounds even more energetic than before.
In younger man, 50 or younger, denial and anger often set in and sometimes become difficult to handle.
I am glad you are doing well. It's good that you like and trust your doctor, Dr. Ong. Too often the patients thank God for getting better but sue the doctors if they don't do well.